Tuesday, January 27, 2015

What’s the deal with sex? Part I

In the second edition of his book Practical Ethics, Peter Singer writes:

[T]he first thing to say about ethics is that it is not a set of prohibitions particularly concerned with sex.  Even in the era of AIDS, sex raises no unique moral issues at all.  Decisions about sex may involve considerations of honesty, concern for others, prudence, and so on, but there is nothing special about sex in this respect, for the same could be said of decisions about driving a car. (p. 2, emphasis added)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Links of interest

Has mathematics misled modern science?  Bryan Appleyard, channeling physicist Lee Smolin and philosopher Roberto Mangabeira Unger, makes the case.

But maybe mathematical elegance should trump empirical evidence?  Some physicists seem to think so.  In Nature, physicists George Ellis and Joe Silk will have none of it.  Further commentary, and a roundup of other responses, from physicist Peter Woit

At the OUP Blog, John Searle on the intentionality of perceptual experience.  At the same blog: Federica Russo and Phyllis Illari on causation in science and Tad Schmaltz on causation in Aristotle and Hume.

Philosopher John Lamont on Thomism, “manualism,” and the nouvelle théologie, at Rorate Caeli

Monday, January 19, 2015

Schall on Scholastic Metaphysics

At Crisis magazine, Fr. James V. Schall very kindly reviews my book Scholastic Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction.  From the review:

Feser has done his homework. He is quite familiar with modern analytic philosophy along with other modern systems.  He came to Aristotle and Aquinas, whom he knows well, from his realization of problems in the modern systems.  Likewise, Feser is acquainted more than most with the various texts that were once profitably used in Catholic university and seminary philosophy departments but later abandoned during the last half century.  Feser recognizes that these writers, who were perhaps not perfect, were often very good thinkers in their own right as well as familiar with the intellectual tradition of the West…

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Feynman’s painter and eliminative materialism

In case you haven’t been following it, my recent critique of novelist Scott Bakker’s Scientia Salon essay on eliminative materialism has generated quite a lot of discussion, including a series of vigorous and good-natured responses from Bakker himself both in my combox and at his own blog.  Despite the points made in my previous post, Bakker still maintains -- utterly implausibly, in my view -- that the incoherence objection begs the question against the eliminativist.  To see the problem with this response, consider a further analogy.

Friday, January 16, 2015

2015 Aquinas Workshop

Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, NY will be hosting the Fifth Annual Philosophy Workshop on the theme “Aquinas and the Philosophy of Nature” from June 4-7.  The speakers will be William Carroll, Fr. James Brent, Alfred Freddoso, Michael Gorman, Jennifer Frey, Edward Feser, Candace Vogler, John O’Callaghan, and Fr. Michael Dodds.  More information here

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Post-intentional depression

A reader asks me to comment on novelist Scott Bakker’s recent Scientia Salon article “Back to Square One: toward a post-intentional future.”  “Intentional” is a reference to intentionality, the philosopher’s technical term for the meaningfulness or “aboutness” of our thoughts -- the way they are “directed toward,” “point to,” or are about something.  A “post-intentional” future is one in which we’ve given up trying to explain intentionality in scientific terms and instead abandon it altogether in favor of radically re-describing human nature exclusively in terms drawn from neuroscience, physics, chemistry, and the like.  In short, it is a future in which we embrace the eliminative materialist position associated with philosophers like Alex Rosenberg and Paul and Patricia Churchland.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Best of 2014

At Catholic World Report, a panel of contributors lists the best books they read in 2014Scholastic Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction was named by three of them: Mark Brumley, President and CEO of Ignatius Press; Christopher Morrissey, Professor of Philosophy at Redeemer Pacific College (who reviewed the book in CWR not too long ago); and Fr. James V. Schall, SJ, Professor Emeritus at Georgetown University.  Very kind!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Postscript on plastic

What better way is there to start off the new year than with another blog post about plastic?  You’ll recall that in a post from last year, I raised the question of why old plastic -- unlike old wood, glass, or metal -- seems invariably ugly.  I argued that none of the seemingly obvious answers holds up upon closer inspection.  In particular, I argued that the “artificiality” of plastic is not the reason, both because there are lots of old artificial things we don’t find ugly and because there is a sense in which plastic is not artificial.